How the pandemic influenced stars—Part 2: Ajay Devgn

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Ajay Devgn in Maidaan, a sports bio-pic on football coach Syed Abdul Rahim. Photo: Universal Communications.

The pandemic since early 2020 has dealt the final blow to the concept of “star” and “superstar” as we know it. It has rewritten the entire story. Like with television in the past, the OTT platform has invaded us all, come movies or series. Many a star now does a web series, whether as a mere producer or even actor. Most of them find the avenue not only lucrative but also creatively fulfilling. Then there are the films that release, due to assorted compulsions, on OTT platforms.

As the (triple) Khan wave seems past its peak, Ajay Devgn—like Akshay Kumar and Hrithik Roshan, now 22 years old as a leading man—is growing bigger. Ajay still believes in the traditional format of doing multiple films a year, except that today, he tends to complete one film before moving to another.

In this second part of a series that looks at how the big stars downwards have been influenced and affected in the last two years of lack of normalcy in viewing movies, we now look at Ajay Devgn.

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Ajay Devgn

There was a social media uproar of a kind when a periodic popularity poll last week on the 10 most popular heroes saw 5 superstars and 5 lesser names but no Ajay Devgn. The fact is that Ajay, despite Bhuj: The Pride of India, which released last year on OTT and was an unmitigated disaster, deserves to come now in the topmost echelons. And the credibility of this “poll” acquired a huge question mark.

Let us look briefly at Ajay’s pre-pandemic record: beginning with the Diwali 2017 release of Golmaal Again, Ajay has had a flop-free tally. In 2018, he featured in Raid, with a fairly extended cameo as Singham in Simmba. In 2019, he had the madcap laugh-riot Total Dhamaal and the romantic comedy De De Pyaar De.

In 2020, his historical, Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, was not only a blockbuster but stopped just short (Rs. 279.55 crore) of entering the exclusive domestic 300- crore (PK, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Sultan, Dangal, Tiger Zinda Hai, Padmaavat, Sanju, War) club only because a lockdown was imposed during its phenomenal run. Worldwide, it crossed Rs 350 crore in gross earnings.

In 2021, apart from Bhuj…, Ajay only had a cameo (as Singham again) in Sooryavanshi. However, in the last few years, Ajay has also been active as producer—for the acclaimed Marathi film, Aapla Manus (2018—in which he made a cameo too) and Helicopter Eela (with wife Kajol in the title-role), the TV series Swami Ramdev Ek Sangharsh the same year, Chhalang (2020) and Tribhanga (again with Kajol) and The Big Bull (2021) that did not feature him.

Of course, Ajay also part-bankrolled his Total Dhamaal and Tanhaji… as well, and he has now produced the web series, The Great Indian Murder (due in a few weeks now). What’s more, he is now starring in the Disney+Hotstar web series, Rudra: The Edge of Darkness.

Ajay has thus not only been active on all four media—films, TV, web and films that are released on the web—in the last few years but has come up stronger.

He has a very varied and interesting lot of movies too—his special forte in recent years. Like Akshay Kumar, but probably even more, he balances between action, comedy and bio-pics. But he has also done a romantic comedy and a historical. He has turned director long ago and has also been in charge of visual effects as well as stunt coordination in the 2016 Shivaay and been a technology geek for over 20 years now, including in his movies beginning Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha (1998).

His visual effects company, NY VFXWaala, named after his kids Nysa and Yug, is in full fettle as well. Accepting even outside assignments, the company has already won multiple awards, including the National.

His forthcoming list of movies is colorful indeed: his latest is the official remake of Kaithi, the 2019 Tamil blockbuster. Tabu is his co-star yet again after several films. Rudra: The Edge of Darkness is said to be one of the biggest Indian series on the digital world and is directed by Rajesh Mapuskar, who directed Priyanka Chopra’s Marathi ace Ventilator and, earlier, the Hindi Ferrari Ki Sawaari and had assisted Rajkumar Hirani. Rudra… too is expected this year.

2022’s summer is important for Ajay with Runway 34. It is an Eid 2022 release too and not only is Ajay directing his third and most ambitious film but will find him direct Amitabh Bachchan.

Ajay’s next would have released already had the latest lockdowns not been imposed—it is said that he has been paid his full market price for this extended cameo in whizkid S.S. Rajamouli’s RRR. He will also do a powerful cameo in  Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi, signaling their reunion after the 1999 Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.

Maidaan, the sports biopic, is inspired by Syed Abdul Rahim, the Indian national football team’s coach and manager who is considered the architect of Indian football, and will release in June. Amit Ravindernath Sharma, who last helmed the path-breaking Badhaai Ho, is directing this Boney Kapoor co-production, which stars South actress Priyamani.

Indra Kumar, one of the very few directors who continue making hits over 25 years after they started out, and last made Total Dhamaal with Ajay, directs Thank God co-starring Sidharth Malhotra and Rakul Preet Singh. Unlike his past over-the-top comedies (the Masti and Dhamaal franchise), this is expected to be have slice-of-life humor.

Ajay will end 2022 by reuniting in the lead (after two successive cameos as Singham) in Singham 3, which is a story “promised” in the climax of Sooryavanshi by his character. This will be his 12th film with Rohit Shetty and fourth as the iconic cop, Bajirao Singham.

But Ajay is not just about one iconic cop. On-screen or behind, he continues to rock as a superstar. Spurious “polls” notwithstanding.

 

 

 

 

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